Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Succession - Season 2 (TV 2019)

Rotten Tomatoes
Succession - Season 2 (TV 2019): The noose tightens around Logan Roy's empire. Debt, Congressional hearings, hostile takeover, skittish shareholders, scandals and backstabbing. It couldn't happen to a more evil family. Not the Trumps, but close. Lots of deserved Emmy nods. B+

Read the Season 1 review.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Ordeal by Innocence (TV 2018)

Rotten Tomatoes
Ordeal by Innocence (TV 2018): 3 episode adaptation of Agatha Christie mystery. Matriarch of large, rich family is murdered. Plenty of suspects. The relationships are as tangled as the possible motives. Killer can be figured out (I didn't), as can the twist (I did, kinda). B-


Monday, November 23, 2020

Partisan Nonpartisan Elections

School and municipal elections are supposed to be nonpartisan. I say "supposed to be" loosely. There's no law about this. For practical purposes "nonpartisan" just means that "R" and "D" don't appear after candidates' names on the ballot. Everything else is just custom and tradition. Over the last few elections, those customs seem to be breaking down.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Review: Piranesi

From Piranesi, by Susanna Clarke:

Open quoteI am determined to explore as much of the World as I can in my lifetime. To this end I have travelled as far as the Nine-Hundred-and-Sixtieth Hall to the West, the Eight-Hundred-and-Ninetieth Hall to the North and the Seven-Hundred-and-Sixty-Eighth Hall to the South." Piranesi
This is a wonderfully imagined world consisting of a mansion with endless halls filled with marble statues, populated solely by Piranesi and the mysterious "Other." Is it real? Fantasy? Magical realism? It'll keep you guessing all the way to the end.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Schitt's Creek - Seasons 1-6 (TV 2015-2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
Schitt's Creek - Seasons 1-6 (TV 2015-2020): Family of rich snobs goes bankrupt and ends up living in a cheap motel in Schitt's Creek. A sitcom with heart that reminded me of Green Acres. You either love it or hate it. Excellent ensemble cast creates unforgettable characters. B+

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

POTD: African Swamphen

From 2019 11 19 Aswan
Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Nile River near Aswan, Egypt. The Nile riverbanks are home to countless birds. Today's photo is of an African Swamphen.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

POTD: Pied Kingfishers

From 2019 11 19 Aswan
Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Nile River near Aswan, Egypt. The Nile riverbanks are home to countless birds. Today's photo is of two Pied Kingfishers.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Dolittle (2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
Dolittle (2020): Dr. Dolittle is not a swashbuckling sea captain on an adventure to find the Tree of Eden. Plot is plodding. Dialog is dull. Robert Downey Jr is wasted in a lethargic role. Good CGI animals. Maybe little kids will like that, but that's about it. C-

Friday, November 13, 2020

POTD: Goliath Heron

From 2019 11 19 Aswan
Decompressing from the election, it's time for something completely different. Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Nile River near Aswan, Egypt. The Nile riverbanks are home to countless birds. Today's photo is of a Goliath Heron.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

POTD: Osprey

From 2019 11 19 Aswan
Decompressing from the election, it's time for something completely different. Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Nile River near Aswan, Egypt. The Nile riverbanks are home to countless birds. Today's photo is of an Osprey.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

POTD: Grey Heron

From 2019 11 19 Aswan
Decompressing from the election, it's time for something completely different. Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Nile River near Aswan, Egypt. The Nile riverbanks are home to countless birds. Today's photo is of a Grey Heron.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Secrets of the Saqqara Tomb (2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
Secrets of the Saqqara Tomb (2020): Documentary about the recent discovery and excavation of a noble's tomb near Cairo. Some scenes show the nearby step pyramid, which we visited just after this documentary was filmed. It needs fewer scenes of digging and more history. C+

Monday, November 9, 2020

The Queen's Gambit (TV 2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
The Queen's Gambit (TV 2020): Orphaned chess prodigy works through childhood traumas, struggles with alcohol and pills, and her own genius. It's a "sports movie" like no other. None of the usual characters act to cliched form. It's her life story that steals our attention. A+

Friday, November 6, 2020

Review: A Burning

From A Burning, by Megha Majumdar:

Open quoteThe night before, I had been at the railway station, no more than a fifteen-minute walk from my house. I ought to have seen the men who stole up to the open windows and threw flaming torches into the halted train. But all I saw were carriages, burning, their doors locked from the outside and dangerously hot." A Burning

A Burning is a debut novel by an Indian woman, born in Kolkata and now living in the United States. Its three featured characters are all from the poorer classes, and all seek to rise to middle class. Their prospects intersect and cross.

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Emily in Paris (TV 2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
Emily in Paris (TV 2020): Young American Instagram influencer gets transferred to Paris where she flirts with every handsome or rich French man. Could be a 1960s TV show updated for today, maybe "Gidget Gets Laid." Every cliche about French snobbery and dumb American overseas. C+

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

POTD: Senegal Thick-Knees

From 2019 11 19 Aswan
While the last few states are still counting their votes (get it done, get it right), it's time for something completely different. Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Nile River near Aswan, Egypt. The Nile riverbanks are home to countless birds, almost all of them new and interesting to someone from North America. Today's photo shows two Senegal thick-knees.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Monday, November 2, 2020

The Consequences of (Secret) Compromise

Fifty-eight years ago in October, the world came closer to nuclear war than at any other time in history. I'm talking about what's become known as the "Cuban Missile Crisis". We're alive to talk about it today because war didn't break out. Why didn't it break out? A peaceful compromise was found.

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Random Thoughts: Alexa, Change the President

Tweets from October, 2020:
  • 2020-10-01: Me: "Alexa, change the President."
    Alexa: "Sorry, I'm not sure."
    Alexa must be the last undecided person in America.
  • 2020-10-01: "Insects have been around for 480 million years, solving nearly every problem nature has dealt them. Maybe it's worth listening to what they have to say." -- Natalie Angier
  • 2020-10-01: "Stand back. Stand by." -- Donald Trump.
    "Bigotry or white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed." -- George W Bush, after Charlottesville in 2017.
    There. That's not hard, is it, Mr. President?

After the jump, more random thoughts.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

POTD: Spooky Halloween

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Dallas Museum of Art. It's from "Rubber Pencil Devil," by Alex Da Corte, ("2018, glass, aluminum, vinyl, velvet, neon, Plexiglas, high res digital video, color, sound"). It's part of the exhibition "For a Dreamer of Houses".

Friday, October 30, 2020

Barry - Season 1 (TV 2018)

Rotten Tomatoes
Barry - Season 1 (TV 2018): A poignant comedy about a vet with PTSD who turns hit man. On a trip to LA he decides to quit his job and go to acting class. Can he turn his life around? Unlikely stars Bill Hader and Henry Winkler pull it off. Acting lessons are a bonus. B+


Thursday, October 29, 2020

The Pale Horse (TV 2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
The Pale Horse (TV 2020): Two episode adaptation of Agatha Christie's mystery novel. People are dying. A list of names, including our hero, is found. Police suspect him. He suspects witches. WTH? Convoluted plot but it kind of works out. Good period piece of 1961 England. C+

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

The Way I See It (2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
The Way I See It (2020): Documentary about Pete Souza, White House photographer for President Obama. It's at its best when it lets his photographs do the talking. It's not as good when it expands to include video and photos taken by others. Souza's "Shade" was a surprise hit. B-

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

"Identity Politics" in the 1860 Election

In a review of a biography of Abraham Lincoln in The New Yorker, Adam Gopnik makes a couple of throwaway observations of the 1860 campaign for the Republican nomination for President, observations about parallels to today's world.
The Lincolnians also courted a now often overlooked interest group, the émigré Germans, including many exiled by the failed liberal revolutions of 1848. As [Sidney] Blumenthal notes, Lincoln had bought a German-language newspaper, in order to appeal to those key players of the “identity politics” of the time. (It was the equivalent of surreptitiously funding Facebook pages in 2020.)

Identity politics. Facebook. Both in a paragraph about the election of 1860. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Monday, October 26, 2020

POTD: For a Dreamer of Houses

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Dallas Museum of Art. It shows "Rubber Pencil Devil," by Alex Da Corte, ("2018, glass, aluminum, vinyl, velvet, neon, Plexiglas, high res digital video, color, sound"). It's part of the exhibition "For a Dreamer of Houses".

Bonus photo after the jump.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (2020): Blunt satire of Trump supporters, debutante balls, plastic surgeons, anti-abortion clinics, and, yes, Rudy Giuliani. But vulgarity is no longer shocking, merely vulgar. But then, Giuliani and Trump themselves are vulgar, so call it a draw. D+






Saturday, October 24, 2020

My Octopus Teacher (2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
My Octopus Teacher (2020): Nature documentary like you've never seen. Diver in South Africa spends a year visiting, studying, and learning from one particular octopus. He even makes friends, if that's the right word. It's clearly intelligent, curious, and playful. Fascinating. B+

Friday, October 23, 2020

Review: The Index of Self-Destructive Acts

From The Index of Self-Destructive Acts, by Christopher Beha:

Open quoteOn the day that Waxworth arrived in New York to write for the Interviewer, a man named Herman Nash stood on the rim of the fountain in Washington Square and announced that the world was about to end." The Index of Self-Destructive Acts
The index of self-destructive acts is a baseball statistic developed by Bill James that counts up all the mistakes a pitcher makes that are entirely in his control: balks, wild pitches, errors, etc. There's not much baseball in this novel by Christopher Beha, but there are a lot of self-destructive acts.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

The Man Who Wouldn't Spy for the US

"The F.B.I. tried to recruit an Iranian scientist as an informant. When he balked, the payback was brutal." Laura Secor tells the story of Sirous Asgari, an Iranian who had once attended graduate school in America, where his wife gave birth to his American citizen daughter, and where his two sons attended American universities. But on a visit in 2017 he was detained by the F.B.I. He was charged with "theft of trade secrets, visa fraud, and eleven counts of wire fraud." He considered the charges to be nonsense and refused a deal offered that appeared to be the real reason behind the charges — to get him to agree to act as an informant, that is to spy for the US back in Iran. He fought the trumped up charges in an American courtroom and won. But after the judge dismissed all charges against him, even before he could leave the courtroom, he was detained by I.C.E. And then the real hell began.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Lovecraft Country (TV 2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
Lovecraft Country (TV 2020): Monsters, magic, witches, ghosts, shape shifters, time travel, and racism, lots of racism, from 1921 Tulsa race massacre to 1950s Jim Crow. The Korean War filler episode is the best. The CGI is impressive. The plot doesn't make a lick of sense. C+

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Lake Highlands Gets a Signature Bridge

Advocate Lake Highlands has the story: "That bowl of spaghetti that is the Skillman/Audelia/LBJ interchange will become a beautiful — and safe — gateway into Lake Highlands."

Monday, October 19, 2020

David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet (2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet (2020): Part memoir, part nature doc, part prescription for avoiding environmental disaster. Attenborough calls it his witness statement of global decline in a single lifetime. He warns the next 93 years will be worse without change. B-

Friday, October 16, 2020

POTD: Mausoleum of Aga Khan

From 2019 11 19 Aswan
Today's photo-of-the-day is from Aswan, Egypt. It shows the Mausoleum of Aga Khan on the Nile River. According to Wikipedia, "He was the 48th Imam of the Nizari Ismaili religion. He was one of the founders and the first permanent president of the All-India Muslim League. His goal was the advancement of Muslim agendas and protection of Muslim rights in India." He died in 1957.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

The Boys - Season 2 (TV 2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
The Boys - Season 2 (TV 2020): Big pharma, military, a Scientology-like religious cult, and our ragtag team of resisters strive for control of a serum that gives people super powers. Only message is nihilism. If you like gratuitous random exploding heads this might be for you. C+

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

POTD: Nile Fishermen...or Something

From 2019 11 19 Aswan
Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Nile River in Aswan, Egypt. I have no idea what these men are doing. Maybe beating the fish to death? Or is that some kind of net on the end of the pole? Who knows?

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

The Forty-Year-Old Version (2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
The Forty-Year-Old Version (2020): Character study of a struggling playwright/teacher/wannabe rapper in a mid-life crisis. Should she sell out her vision to be more commercial? The dignity and even greatness in an everyday woman. Written, directed, and starring Radha Blank. B+

Monday, October 12, 2020

Extending the Reach of Richardson's Gag Order

The City of Richardson is considering a social media policy. Let's stipulate that this resulted from the City's embarrassing BimboGate in early 2019. Mayor Paul Voelker addressed that, eloquently and sufficiently, in my mind, with this statement of belief: "Richardson’s values are best upheld when we engage in civic discourse that is civil in tone, respectful of others and designed to produce constructive outcomes for the betterment of our community."

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Now Democracy is a Dirty Word, Too

For years, I've tracked how virtues like tolerance and compromise and civility have all come under attack from conservatives. I've said, "What I thought made American democracy great is being surely dismantled, virtuous brick by virtuous brick." Ironically, the latest such motherhood and apple pie virtue that conservatives want no truck with any more is "democracy" itself.

Friday, October 9, 2020

Succession - Season 1 (TV 2018)

Rotten Tomatoes
Succession - Season 1 (TV 2018): Aging patriarch of family-owned media empire faces succession. Schemes, double-crosses, undisguised ill will. Think King Lear, Murdochs, Trumps. Lots of foul language. Lots. Not a likable character in the show. But yet, riveting television. B+


Thursday, October 8, 2020

Bad Education (2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
Bad Education (2020): Drama based on real life. Embezzlement in a Long Island school district by a popular but smarmy superintendent. Plot unfolds like you'd expect. Great cast does their best with so-so script. Maybe screenwriter should have gone all in on black comedy. B-

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Code of Ethics: Curiouser and Curiouser

It's been a long time since we had to talk about Laura (Maczka) Jordan. Remember, Richardson's former mayor was convicted of bribery. Then she got her conviction thrown out. Now she waits a possible retrial. She is content running out the clock until the prosecution or the public lose interest. Or both. It could easily be ten years after she left office before her case is settled and justice is served. Or not. That's the legal system in America.

How about the legislative system? The City of Richardson has a Code of Ethics that utterly failed at either preventing the behavior that led to the mayor being tried for bribery. Or even in discovering the alleged criminal behavior after the fact. The City had a reason for that, a reason that didn't sit well with me. But the City, too, seems to be playing a long game, perhaps also hoping that the public eventually loses interest.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

POTD: Aswan Spice Market

From 2019 11 19 Aswan
Today's photo-of-the-day is from a spice market in Aswan, Egypt.

Bonus photos after the jump.

Monday, October 5, 2020

POTD: Aswan Street Market

From 2019 11 19 Aswan
Today's photo-of-the-day is of a street market in Aswan, Egypt.

Bonus photos after the jump.

Friday, October 2, 2020

Review: The Mirror & the Light

From The Mirror & the Light, by Hilary Mantel:

Open quoteOnce the queen’s head is severed, he walks away. A sharp pang of appetite reminds him that it is time for a second breakfast, or perhaps an early dinner." The Mirror & the Light
The Mirror & the Light is the third volume of Hilary Mantel's life of Thomas Cromwell, chief minister of Henry VIII. It covers the four years from the execution of Anne Boleyn to his own downfall, with all the court intrigues in between. It's a masterfully written view of England in mid-1500s. B+

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Random Thoughts: I Can't Wait for the Presidential Debates

Tweets from September, 2020:
  • 2020-09-03: I can't wait for the Presidential debates so I'll finally know who to vote for.
  • 2020-09-03: Radioactive (2020): Biopic of Marie Curie. Rosamund Pike plays an unlikable character, a prickly genius. It crams 60 years into one movie, as well as peeks at future benefits and ills of nuclear energy. You'll learn a lot about history, an amazing scientist and kickass woman. B-
  • 2020-09-07: An American Pickle (2020): Immigrant falls into a vat of pickle brine in 1919 and is rescued in 2019. Just accept the premise. Seth Rogan plays the immigrant and his great grandson. Touching story of reconnecting with family and culture. Not what I expected from Seth Rogan. B-
  • 2020-09-07: When I "hide" an ad on Facebook (hoping FB will quit serving ads of this type to me), it asks me why I wanted to hide the ad, offering choices like "already purchased," "irrelevant," and "repetitive." Why doesn't it offer as a choice, "Insults my intelligence"?
  • 2020-09-08: Neighborhood yard sign poll: 3 Colin Allred signs, 2 Genevieve Collins signs. So with 55 days to go, it's 60%-40% Allred.

After the jump, more random thoughts.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Perry Mason (TV 2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
Perry Mason (TV 2020): Gritty back stories for Perry and Della Street, Paul Drake, and Hamilton Burger. Perry is a hothead loser who plays fast and loose with the law. Matthew Rhys doesn't quite have the toughness needed. The resolution of the murder case is kind of messy. B-

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

POTD: Sunset Sail on the Nile

From 2019 11 19 Aswan
Today's photo-of-the-day is from Aswan, Egypt. It's from a sunset sail in a felucca on the Nile River.

Bonus photo after the jump.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Enola Holmes (2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
Enola Holmes (2020): Sherlock's young sister's mother is missing. Enola runs away to find her. Sherlock and Mycroft search for Enola. Mystery and adventure ensue. Suitable for the whole family. Enola is smart, independent, and good with jujutsu. Young girls will love her. C+

Friday, September 25, 2020

The Social Dilemma (2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
The Social Dilemma (2020): Documentary. Former execs from Facebook, Google, Twitter warn us of the threat from the addictive design of social apps, which has led to a spike in depression and suicide attempts by young people. But they struggle in saying what can be done. C+

Thursday, September 24, 2020

POTD: Old Cataract Hotel

From 2019 11 19 Aswan
Today's photo-of-the-day is from Aswan, Egypt. It shows the Old Cataract Hotel, built in 1899 on the bank of the Nile. "Its guests have included Tsar Nicholas II, Winston Churchill, Howard Carter, Margaret Thatcher, Jimmy Carter, François Mitterrand, Princess Diana, Queen Noor and Agatha Christie, who set portions of her novel Death on the Nile at the hotel. The 1978 film of the novel was shot at the hotel."

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Loading More Responsibility on the Police

The death of George Floyd led to a nationwide "Black Lives Matter" movement that reached all the way to Richardson. The mayor marched with and addressed Richardson residents at a "Black Lives Matter" rally at City Hall. The City Council unanimously approved a statement condemning racism. The City Council called Chief Jim Spivey to brief the council on department policies. It all sounded so woke.

But. You knew there'd be a but.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Harriet (2019)

Rotten Tomatoes
Harriet (2019): Long overdue biopic of Harriet Tubman, a fierce, uncompromising, determined American hero. Reason #101 for defeating Trump: so Harriet Tubman can take her deserved place on the $20 bill. Cynthia Erivo owns the role. More action scenes than speeches. A-

Monday, September 21, 2020

POTD: Felucca on the Nile

From 2019 11 19 Aswan
Today's photo-of-the-day is from Aswan, Egypt. It shows a felucca, "a traditional wooden sailing boat." "They are usually able to board ten passengers and the crew consists of two or three people." "Despite the availability of motorboats and ferries, feluccas are still in active use as a means of transport in Nile-adjacent cities like Aswan or Luxor. They are especially popular among tourists who can enjoy a quieter and calmer mood than motorboats have to offer."

Bonus photo after the jump.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

POTD: Tombs of the Nobles

From 2019 11 19 Aswan
Today's photo-of-the-day is from Aswan, Egypt. It shows the Nile River and high above its bank, the Tombs of the Nobles, dating back to circa 2575 BC to 2150 BC. These were not pharaohs of Egypt, but a rank below — the nobility. Given the heated politics of today, I find it comforting to think of that vast span of time that separates us from the politics of ancient Egypt. How many governments rose and fell in the millennia since? No matter what happens to the American Republic in the near future (and make no mistake; democracy teeters on the brink), this too shall pass.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Broadchurch (TV 2013-2017)

Rotten Tomatoes
Broadchurch (TV 2013-2017). A dead boy is found on the beach of an English seaside town. Suspects are everywhere: neighbors and family. Detectives investigate. Focus is not just on solving the whodunnit, but on how everyone in town is affected. Character counts in Broadchurch. A-


Thursday, September 17, 2020

POTD: Mövenpick Resort Aswan

From 2019 11 19 Aswan
Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Mövenpick Resort Aswan on an island in the Nile River in Aswan, Egypt. The Mövenpick was our base for exploring Aswan and the Upper Nile. The Nile flows south to north, so the south is Upper Egypt and the north is Lower Egypt, a geographical detail that is endlessly confusing for some reason. In the background across the Nile behind the island that the hotel sits on, are the Tombs of the Nobles, dating back to circa 2575 BC to 2150 BC.

Bonus photos after the jump.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Polka King (2017)

Rotten Tomatoes
Polka King (2017): Biopic of rise and fall of Jan Lewan, a Polish Cold War defector who becomes a polka star and bilks his fans of millions of dollars. A PSA for gullible people. A Jack Black vehicle. He owns every scene, but his Polish accent just isn't up to the task. B-